San Francisco - Long live opportunity!
As you likely know, Virgina Commonwealth University has made it, against LONG odds and despite the opinions of "experts", to the Final Four of the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship. What does VCU making the Final Four have to do with baseball? Glad you asked.
This morning I was listening to a local morning talk show and they ran the spliced together clip of all the "experts" and what they said about VCU when it was announced they had made the tournament. Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas, to name a few, ranted and raved about how VCU didn't belong because of all they were not or had not yet accomplished, had no shot of advancing, that Colorado received a brutal snub at the expense of VCU, etc. Now, I am not going to blast those guys for stating opinions and being wrong. They are paid to voice opinions, they know more about college hoops than me and hey, no one is always right.
However, I will blast them for the definitive, strong, loud, overconfident overly verbose manner in which they stated their opinions because in sports, there is almost NOTHING that is an absolute.
In the world of baseball scouting - scouts, cross-checkers, scouting directors, college coaches, scouting service scouts, agents, etc. - we all do the same thing when it comes to evaluations of young ballplayers. I recently had a conversation with an agent and we talked about this very thing. The further I get away from my college coaching experience and my MLB scouting experience, the more forgiving I seem to be of young players.
I have just seen too many cases of players proving "experts" wrong. How many times have I said or been told that a certain player "can't play" or "can't hit" or "is going to get hurt" or some other negative statement? Too many times to count, that is how many times. I have now, after being in the business for a little over 10 years, seen way too many players become good players when I was so certain they would not.
Yes, as a scout or cross-checker or college coach, you absolutely have to make a decision on players and you must be definitive. No scouting director or college head coach will keep a scout or recruiting coordinator that is not definitive in his evaluations. Scouts/coaches have to "know" everything about a player because the phrase "I don't know" or "I am not sure" just will not be accepted.
What eventually will happen is the scouts and college coaches become know-it-alls, plain and simple. It becomes part of our personality, within our professions. We become trained to see negative more brightly than positive. Yet, that is weird because a farm director once told me, scouting is optimism and player development is realism.
Scouts "see the future" for players, so there is an awful lot of positive thinking and positive projections involved. However, the players they see with those positive futures get opportunities at the expense of players who "can't do" this or "can't do" that because it is easier to what they can't do versus focusing on what they can do.
Ask most scouts or coaches their opinion about a player and if you do get a straight answer, it is likely to be quite negative and regardless of negative or positive, that opinion is stated almost as fact... just like Phelps, Vitale, Davis and Bilas were in regard to VCU and some other teams. It is true, VCU finished fourth in a small, mid-major conference, not typically where a national title contender finishes.
However, VCU was given a chance to keep playing. They very likely steadily improved as the year went along. They gained confidence, they played with a "we will show you" attitude, and for young people, athletes in particular, that is a powerful motivational tool. The same thing happens with players who are told "can't play" or are just not good enough. More important though is that VCU got an opportunity.
To all players who "can't play" or are "too small" or whatever it is that you cannot do, keep playing and keep getting better. Opportunity is the key so you have to be ready when that opportunity comes. Players need an opportunity to keep playing, keep developing, keep getting better and ultimately should continue to fight for a chance to prove they CAN play. Opportunity is not an easy thing to come by when those opportunities are often held by the scouts, coaches, and scouting directors that know it all.
Find coaches to play for have the ability to help you improve your weaknesses and who can see and appreciate what you “can do” versus focusing on what you “can't do.”
In his next article, Blaine relates a story about two Major League pitchers he saw while scouting for the Atlanta Braves, and talks further about focusing on what players “can do” vs. what players “can’t do.”